I once heard a wine writer dismiss New Zealand as serious Pinot Noir producer. If I wanted proper Pinot I must look to France, like the Côte-d’Or, and portions of California, Santa Barbara perhaps. But New Zealand and Chile are not excelling at making world class Pinot. Translation: you are an asshole if you buy from these sub-par regions and you are a bigger asshole for not being able to afford the proper ones. Best you just avoid Pinot Noir altogether—rather, enjoy it vicariously through my musings. Feel free to trust your palate, just understand it’s wrong.
I recommend you ignore it all. It doesn’t matter how good a bottle of wine is if you can’t afford to try it. I love Pinot Noir and think New Zealand is underrated, under-stocked, and under-consumed. Finding a quality, small production Pinot Noir from California or France for $12 is very difficult—not from New Zealand. This is going to be a recurring theme for the rest of the summer, and never more than now have I wanted feedback, input, and recommendations. I’m trying as many as I can get my hands on in that under $15 price range, and I will be discussing them all.
2007 · Vavasour (Dashwood) · Pinot Noir · Marlborough, New Zealand:
Perplexing initial nose. Coconut! A piña colada tsunami—pineapple, coconut milk, strawberry garnish and a Meyer’s Rum floater. It’s all there, then 10 minutes later, it’s gone. Just like that. Those initial few moments after a cork is pulled can be so touch and go—either very telling or completely irrelevant. But, whether I plan to let it breathe or jump right in, a little sniff and sip is never missed. The nose eventually settles on dark cherry, strawberry, green herb, and tomato. Soft spice, cocoa powder, musty and mushroom advance on the palate. My preferred New Zealand Pinot Noir for the price thus far. ($12.99 at Purdy’s)
2007 · Brancott · Pinot Noir · South Island, New Zealand:
Very light initially—converse to the picture, which makes it look like ink. Muted fruit saturated with wet minerals. Clearly Pinot but guarded and un-daring nonetheless. Very cool mouthfeel, stone washed cherry and plum pits and a touch of soy. Little earth flavors, more coastal in description with briny, moist ocean air qualities. My very last note: falling apart, weak fruit.
I included this review not because of the out-of-work blackjack dealer in the photograph above, although I was hoping I would be as happy with the wine as I was the pictures, but it was not to be. At first. Some of the CellarTracker reviews were less friendly, although in line with my initial notes—79.1 average community rating.
“Watered-down taste, musty aroma, and no real positives I can identify. Might be better if chilled (yes, chilled).”
“Not up to the standard of the other Kiwi Pinots, although adequate. Vanishing fruit leaves a tad too much acid for my liking.”
“This appears to be a Pinot Noir of minor status. It looks and feels light, has only a touch of traditional taste, exhibiting only minor or possibly average characteristics. If lighter reds are what you like, this could be for you.”
“Light and easy across the palate, simply dark-fruited, with some smoke and gravel lingering on the finish, a nice jab of acid, not quite in harmony, but drinks well at the table, gulpable with a miso-mayo glazed salmon, I appreciate the lightness and rustic nature of this wine.”
Although I ceased my note taking and all but flushed the possibility of writing a review for this wine, Carey and I continued to sip through dinner and a Snack Pack, t.v., laundry, and a cappuccino before reengaging and discussing it’s turnaround. It remained linear with good fruit and minerals, but gained considerably in strength and fruit quality closing out in good standing. ($14.99 at Crush and Cask.)